|Title||Identity for sale: A case study of Gap Inc|
Where we consume, what we consume and how we present our material goods on our bodies all provide important messages about our identity. As consumers, we surround ourselves with objects that define and project our identity. Clothing is among the most popular, and the most public, of commodities used to express individual identities. It has moved beyond its usefulness for modesty and warmth, and has become highly culturally symbolic. Thus, consumption of clothing can be considered more than a frivolous and meaningless act, this thesis will reveal how it can be positioned as an intimate and involved exercise in identity construction. Through participant observation and semi-structured interviews, my research aims to uncover how people perceive spaces of consumption and how these perceptions affect processes of identity development and expression. Using the Gap and Old Navy as focal points for my case study, I examine how these retail environments are constructed, how merchandising techniques are utilized and how consumers interpret such spaces. I demonstrate the gendered differences in consumption habits and identity performance highlighting, for men, the influence of sexuality, and for women, the importance of ideal, perceived and real images of womens bodies. Given both the pervasiveness of the Gap and Old Navy in the Canadian market, and the continuing culture of identity-based consumption, I argue that the spatial practices employed by clothing retailers play a significant role in the shaping and expression of their patrons self-perceptions and identities.
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